April 3rd   Leave a comment

It was a day of contrasts; a dull and rainy start but a beautiful afternoon. The light south-easterlies continued all day bringing in the summer migrants. There were three pristine male northern wheatears on the beach at the end of Balcomie golf course. Two weeks ago they will have been in the Sahel enjoying temperatures of above 40 degrees; here, today it was just seven degrees. I think they prefer it cooler – when I see them in Africa they take advantage of shade whenever they can and they don’t do much between 10 and 4 when it is really hot. All three birds were feeding at double speed amongst the seaweed. After a long flight – perhaps 2 or 3 days solid and over 3,000 km – they weigh half as much as when they started. So they need to refuel. Some wheatears (although probably not these early ones) continue on to Greenland from the UK with a further 3,000 km flight over the North Atlantic and the Greenland ice cap. There are no potential stops on the way so they have to fully fatten up before they depart. This might take about a week of feeding all day. Today’s wheatears were probably just going a bit further north in Europe so a couple of days’ feeding will suffice to put on fuel for the next leg. Wheatears, of any kind, are one of my favourite birds. What is there not to like about theses have a go heroes with their epic migrations (some from Alaska to Zambia via Central Asia for goodness sake) and their perky presence in the open, otherwise empty habitats of the tundras of the north right through to the deserts of the south.

A migrating male northern wheatear at Balcomie

A migrating male northern wheatear at Balcomie

Kilmininng had some other early migrants. One or two chiff-chaffs and a blackcap. All feeding frantically like the wheatears and as if they had just arrived during the night. There was no singing suggesting these were on their way somewhere rather than having arrived  at their final destination. Blackcaps and chiff-chaffs haven’t come as far as the wheatears, probably only from the olive groves of Spain. They may have been in Iberia just two days ago.

There were some other signs of spring. An early corn bunting tuning up down at Wormiston Farm and I flushed a snipe from a stubble there too. This will be another migrant on its way north, perhaps to the Highlands after spending the winter in England, or perhaps from much further afield. Some snipe winter in sub-Saharan Africa.

I disturbed a fox at Wormiston too. I saw a distant shape lolloping away and expected it to be a roe deer. But something about the way it stopped and looked jauntily back at me made me look at it closer through my binoculars. A handsome dog fox – keeping sensibly out of the way. It has been a good week for foxes. I saw another crossing the road just outside of Kingsbarns on Wednesday.

Fox

Fox

The year list has progressed well today. Three new summer migrants and a pair of shelduck in their usual place two bays north of Balcomie Beach. I am now up to 109: this is my usual total for late April or even early May, so I am still doing well.

Expect the first swallows in this week; it’s shaping up for an early spring.

Posted April 3, 2016 by wildcrail in Sightings

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